Weekly Walk: Cold trails reveal a quiet beauty

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Ellen Davis | January 15, 2016

The Weekly Walks for Jan. 12 and 13, 2016

The 4 p.m. Tuesday hike,  reported by Norwin Watson:     

In spite of a blue sky, lots of sun, and minimal wind, the temperature was only eight degrees above zero. On my way to the trailhead I was thinking that this would be the coldest hike of the winter, and predicted that only three others would hike when it was this cold out. That turned out to be true: Ed, Marv, and Jake were ready to go, and we decided on the John Muir bicycle trails. As we left the U.S. Highway 12 parking area, we saw a bald eagle circling high above our heads.

The Muir parking lot was empty. We had the trails to ourselves, and headed out on the Brown Trail. The trail had some new snow, but the bikes and snowshoers had already been out on it, so it was somewhat packed down although still a bit uneven. Three of us were wearing ice cleats, but could probably have been okay without them. Jake spotted a rabbit running away from us; a few minutes later Ed spotted another, heading for cover.  

The new snow on the trees was just beautiful as we headed back to the trailhead. We saw nobody else on the trails. Today's hike was a short one – only 1.6 miles -- pretty, peaceful, and another very nice hike.  

The 10:30 a.m. Wednesday long hike, reported by Marvin Herman:

The temperature at the Highway 12 meeting place was a chilling six degrees and all of the hikers were dressed for the weather. This is a key component for an enjoyable winter hike.  Because there was ice somewhere beneath the thin layer of snow on the trails, most of the eleven long-hikers were equipped with some type of device fitting over their footwear to help them over any slippery patches they might encounter. We decided to travel the short distance to the John Muir Bike Trails.

The original plan was to hike the four-mile orange trail as we had done the previous week. As we started our hike, we somehow missed the entrance to the orange trail and found ourselves on the longer and more confusing purple (Rainy Dew) trail. The footing was a bit uneven due to the lack of use since the recent snowfall. We all enjoyed the desolate beauty of the woods in winter. The snow sitting on the tree branches and the starkness of the scene contributed to the wonderland in which we were guests on this day.  In the early minutes of the hike some of us had painfully cold fingers and toes, but the feeling subsided as body heat spread to these extremities. For one of our group, the pain in one foot did not go away; a fellow-hiker came to her aid, removing her boot and inserting a hand-warmer in her sock. She was able to complete the hike comfortably, grateful for the TLC she had received.

We hiked hills and valleys for over two and a half hours and covered about five and a half miles. Afterward, most of us regrouped at the LaGrange General Store for conversation and good food.  Today's choices included tasty soups and jambalaya.

The 10:30 a.m. Wednesday short hike, reported by Ellen Davis:
After several enjoyable weeks on the Muir trails, the short-hikers were ready for something new and different. Jake suggested Natureland County Park. Most of the group responded with some variation of “What's that?” and we knew that it was a good choice. After what seemed like a very long drive, our group of ten re-assembled at the trailhead at the far end of Whitewater Lake. All were well equipped for the weather, dressed in assorted layers of hoods, balaclavas, parkas, lined jeans, snowmobile pants, heavy boots and gloves. (Some admitted to long-johns, but that was not verified....)

We started out on the prairie trail, paralleling Territorial Road though a pine woods silent except for our footsteps and voices. Many of the taller plants of the tiny prairie, visible through the trees, still stood high above the snow. On the far side of this open area young aspens were highlighted against the darker pines. The ground was rich with animal tracks by the spring-fed pond – many deer, plus rabbit and smaller game.  

It was hilly now as we approached the trailhead; we crossed the bridge over the inlet and found ourselves on wide flat trail next to a stream filled with watercress dotted with clumps of fresh snow. We passed though woodland, more pines, then up along the ridge and back down through the pines again. The “wood spirits” here had been busy building structures with fallen limbs – one with what looked like a stockade wall was particularly impressive. We traversed the boardwalk and stopped for a look at the lake, where Jake ventured out onto the ice to rescue a fishing bobber caught in a tree.

Then back to the parking lot. Did anyone want to hike another half mile? Nine of us did – up the big hill next to the inlet then back parallel to the road. Mark suggested lunch at the Snug Harbor Inn on nearby Turtle Lake. Again, the response from most of the hikers was “Where's that?” All of us found it easily; those less shy posed for a photo under the palm tree, and all enjoyed a friendly lunch together.  It was a very satisfactory 1.9-mile hike on a very nice, but cold, day.

Happy trekking!

Respectfully submitted,

Ellen Davis

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